Tuesday 5th May
Goodbye Santorini........Hello Crete
We both awoke several times during the night as you do when the wind is blowing plastic furniture around.While there had been steady light rain yesterday it wasn’t accompanied by wind but this had changed during the night and we opened the shutters at 7am to find a strong wind blowing the palms around and making little waves on the pool we had not got to use.
The rain had stopped so after breakfast we decided to check out what time our transfer to the ferry port would be and then factor in an activity for the day which we hoped would be enough time to bus to the northern town on the island called Oia and walk back to Fira along the rim of the caldera.This walk should take somewhere between 3 and 2 and a half hours depending upon which website or tour book you believed.
Helen,the English wife of George gave us a pickup time of 2.30 which would mean we would have a long wait for our ferry which left at 5.45pm but the ride would be free(therefore keeping the budget in check) and there would still be enough time for
the bus/walk as long as we caught the 11am bus.
We headed off to the bus station and joined the throngs looking for places to go now that the weather was clearing.It was still a bit cloudy and breezy but the rain had stopped and it looked promising for the rest of the day.
The bus quickly filled up with tourists and the odd local who must have to put up with sharing their local bus for most of the year as this island is pretty much an all year tourist destination as the stunning and majestic views of the caldera,volcano and towering cliffs never change for the season.
We chatted with a lady and her daughter from Maryland,USA to pass the time before the bus drove opff to negotiate the narrow town streets heading north.The traffic was busy as usual and one can only admire the skill the drivers we have had used in getting past cars either parked or coming the other in spots so tight we could never imagine could be negotiated.
The road to Oia climbed steadily away from Fira and through a couple of smaller villages before heading down to the coast and through some
fertile farmland that we hadn’t seen before and then onto a windy section of road past banks of red scoria and black rock all left by the volcano erupting.
Afetr 25 minutes we arrived in Oia a town which once had been a sleepy village on the northernmost tip of the island but over the years the commercial demands of tourism had changed its existence.The town s location and elevation supposedly makes it the best place to view the sunset which is another drawcard for this much photographed island.
We didn’t hang around too long as we were on a timetable to be back at Pension George by 2.20pm to be ready for our free ride.And anyway the town itself didn’t look too different to Fira in terms of the shops etc.We had read a set of directions for taking the pathway on a website although we were doing the trail in the opposite direction to the way it was described on the website.We gave ourselves until 1pm to make good progress and have Fira in sight or we would have to get back to the road and catch the 1.30pm bus from Oia to Fira to be back in time for the free ride.
On the way in on the bus we had spotted the windmill and the supermarket from where the trail ended in the outer parts of the village so we set off down the road to make the link onto the trail.
The first section was fairly straight forward and the pathway well formed of volcanic stones set into the soil.The only drawback these weren’t evenly spaced and you had to be a little wary that you placed your foot down flat or risked turning an ankle.The last house in the village was soon behind us and we started to climb a hill that appeared to part of a lava flow that was still quite evident after all the development the island had gone through over the years.The path meandered up past a small church and at the top was another church.The view back over Oia and the ocean was spectacular although not as full of buildings as those views around Fira.
We hadn’t passed anyone else on the path so far and perhaps we were the only mad people doing the trail this morning.Then all of sudden there were couples coming from the direction of Fira.It is always interesting to see what reaction you get when you say hello because you never know whether the other person is able to understand or speak English.This time they did !!
The drop off to the sea far below and the fact that the wind was swirling in parts meant that it was wise to keep to the left hand side of the walkway.In parts there was absolutely nothing you could take hold of if you slipped.
We reached the first small village in good time and we decided that we would be able to make it back in time for Georges ride to the ferry.The path then started to weave in and about alleyways sometimes with views out to the caldera and other times not.There were more people now walking although they didn’t appear to be heading for the part that we had just come over.
As we came down the last hill before Fira town there was a need for more photos for future memories of this most photogenic of places.Into the town and I bought Gretchen a necklace of volcanic rock and local coloured stone as a belated birthday present and memento of our short stay here.
We stopped in at the supermarket to buy some chocolate to replace the energy we had expended on the walk and also some fruit for a late lunch once we got down to the ferry terminal.
George was ready for us and we shared the ride down with an Aussie girl who had been at Gallipoli and was making her way to London via Athens.I suppose at some stage we will stop coming across people who had been at ANZAC as the days pass more since the occasion.
The drive down the zigzag hill to the port was just as interesting as it had been coming up and we hoped the brakes in Georges aged van had been serviced lately.George dropped us off and we shook hands thanking him for his hospitality and let him prepare himself for the ferry arrival which was only minutes away when he would be out to snare some more customers from those who wandered off the ferry wondering where in the hell was the town and where were they going to sleep that night.
There was a very long queue of people catching the ferry and people still in ticket offices buying tickets.
We found a place to sit in a shelter as we had 3 hours to kill before the FlyingCat left and did people watching.A bitch(dog) and her 5 puppies mingled in with the crowd with people particulary Asians all wanting photos next to one of the puppies.At this point Gretchen expressed her concern that something awful might happen to one of the puppies and she would have preferred to be sitting elsewhere.Her instinct was right as usual although it was after the crowd from the incoming ferry and those departing had gone that an incident did occur that upset us both.
A taxi had been parked and people were waiting for the driver to return to get into the cab.The puppies,or some of them had been sitting in a depression in the road where a manhole was.All traffic up until now had avoided them.Then as the taxi turned to go up the hill its front wheel ran over one puppy still in the depression.All hell broke loose as people standing round remonstrated with the taxi driver who must have seen the puppy when he returned to his car.
The puppy took off in front of us in a state of shock,yelping which attracted its mother and brothers and sisters.A local went over to care for the puppy who seemed to still be able to move OK and reassured us that it would be OK.We decided that we would move to the now vacant ferry terminal waiting area away from where the dogs continued to wander amongst the now reduced traffic.
While we sat waiting we watched “Boatmen of Santorini”(local Union labour)prepare for the arrival of a couple of launches bringing in passengers from a cruise ship for a bus trip.It then became clear what the €0.56 was for that was added to our ticket.We hadn’t paid any extra amounts at other ports although just who tied the ships up onshore we are not sure.
The time came to board the Flying Cat 4 which had come over from Crete in the morning and had been tied up at a berth for much of the day.Getting on was another interesting exercise!!Not only was it a relatively steep climb up but the gangway was moving in and out from the catermaran as it bobbed around in the choppy sea.
It was seating anywhere as long as it was in the front cabin and we assumed because this would be the best ride in what we thought would be choppy conditions after the wind and rain of the past day.It all seemed rather ominous when a stewart went around handing out fresh sick bags and not just one each but two or three.!!!!
We put our faith in the Greek captain,after all the Greeks have always been sailors,and as it turned out we had a following sea and the trip wasn’t too uncomfortable after all.We didn’t even see or hear one sick bag being used!! The cat took on a surfing type action and there was only one scary moment when it lurched or turned fairly sharpy and we were looking out only at sea rather than a bit of sea and a bit of sky.
After 2 hours we arrived in Heraklion and as we disembarked realised that getting accommodation might not be so easy as there wasn’t anyone holding up cards offering their pension or hotel for the night.
We ended up trying a tourist office in the bus station only to be directed up the hill.We headed out and noticed a line of taxis.Gretchen,who has taken on the office of Accommodation Leader talked to one of the drivers about a cheap hotel €30 or €40 worth.Next minute we were being introduced to Giannis in the cab at the front of the rank and whisked off to a hotel about 1.5km away and signed up for two nights at€50 per night,a little in excess of our budget but we do have some in the bank after cheaper than expected nights in the islands.The room was well appointed and the towels fresh and sheets spotlessly clean and there was free wireless internet!!
We strolled out to stock up with our ususl breakfast supplies from a supermarket and had dinner of two enormous pizzas and 3 x 500ml Mythos beers.It had been a long day and we were ready for bed at nearly 11pm.
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